GAO: Weaknesses prevail in USAID food aid monitoring
A congressional watchdog agency said the U.S. Agency for International Development must do more to improve its monitoring and evaluation of nonemergency international food aid distribution overseas.
'Monitoring is essential to ensuring that USAID's nonemergency food aid programs in developing countries are implemented as intended, and evaluation helps to assure that these programs achieve their goal of reducing global food insecurity,' said the Government Accountability Office in a report released Monday.
In fiscal year 2008, under the Food for Peace Act, the United States provided $354 million in nonemergency food aid to 28 countries. Included in this legislation, Congress authorized up to $22 million annually for fiscal years 2009 to 2012 to USAID to improve, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of its nonemergency food aid programs. USAID plans to use the funding to increase the number of field staff responsible for monitoring nonemergency food aid programs, and has initiated an upgrade of its computer system.
However, the GAO noted that USAID's computer system improvement proposal lacks a 'concept of operations' document, which describes system characteristics for a proposed system from a user's perspective and includes 'high-level descriptions of information systems, their interrelationships, and information flows.'
Also, to expand its monitoring, GAO said USAID has not yet determined 'a stable source of funding for these initiatives beyond the first year of operations due to legal restrictions that preclude the agency from using the newly authorized funding for grants and cooperative agreements.'